BRASILIA – Venezuela’s former attorney general Luisa Ortega Diaz, who fled her homeland this month after being accused of treason by the Caribbean nation’s leftist government, said on Wednesday she had evidence implicating President Nicolas Maduro and other top officials in a massive bribery scandal orchestrated by Brazilian construction giant Odebrecht.
“I have evidence in the Odebrecht case that implicates Maduro, (ruling socialist party lawmaker) Diosdado Cabello, (Caracas Mayor) Jorge Rodriguez and others,” Ortega Diaz said at the opening of a gathering in Brasilia of prosecutors from the countries that make up the South American trade bloc Mercosur.
She said she had been persecuted in Venezuela for investigating whether top Venezuela officials accepted bribes from Odebrecht.
(Odebrecht and petrochemical unit Braskem pleaded guilty last December and agreed to pay a combined total penalty of at least $3.5 billion to resolve charges with authorities in the United States, Brazil and Switzerland arising out of their schemes to pay hundreds of millions of dollars in bribes to government officials around the world.)
“Most serious of all is that everything is corruption-related. What’s happened with me is because of a series of accusations I made,” Ortega said at the opening of the 22nd Specialized Meeting of Prosecutors of the Southern Common Market, where she was introduced as Venezuela’s “legitimate attorney general.”
“What’s happened in Venezuela is the death of the rule of law. The stability of the region is in danger. What happens in Venezuela can permeate the entire region,” Ortega said.
Venezuela’s recently created National Constituent Assembly (ANC) voted early this month to oust Ortega and replace her with the national ombudsman, Tarek William Saab.
The former attorney general said Wednesday that Saab had been a suspect in six separate corruption investigations and that she had certified copies of documents showing evidence of his involvement in an embezzlement scheme at Venezuelan state oil company PDVSA.
Maduro says the ANC – which has assumed the powers of the opposition-controlled unicameral legislature, the National Assembly – is necessary to lift Venezuela out of a severe political economic crisis.
But his opponents and many foreign government refuse to recognize the plenipotentiary body and say it is an illegitimate tool Maduro’s leftist government is using to consolidate a dictatorship.
Ortega arrived in Brazil from Colombia early Wednesday, shortly after Maduro announced he would ask Interpol to issue a red alert for her arrest and that of her husband, German Ferrer, who like his wife is a former ally of Maduro’s turned critic.
Colombia’s government has offered asylum to Ortega, who was ousted by the ANC on Aug. 5 for allegedly committing “immoral acts.”